Little Princess arrived early, while I was still in the bathroom.
When I appeared she was still wearing her winter jacket, waiting for me.
Sometimes things have to be said that are too important to wait until mundane things like removing outer garments are done. Undressing takes a lot of time and sometimes that time spoils the excitement of a story that has to be told.
So I sat down beside Little Princess and listened.
The story was about something that I had never heard about so it was quite difficult to understand. Luckily Littlie had brought her classroom assistant with her as it was Thursday, the day for exchanging information and learning about how to introduce new activities and solutions in the classroom and in the conductive group that will benefit us all.
I had someone there to help me to understand the difficult words that Littlie was using in her story. Words like driving licence and fountain pen.
I got there in the end, eventually I understood, much to Little Princess's delight.
This is what she told me...
“Today I got my fountain-pen licence! I had hoped to get it yesterday but it was not until today that I managed to write my first-ever dictation without any mistakes.”
The fountain-pen licence
I know Little Princess’s teacher. She is wonderful with the children, especially in relationship to Littlie and her integration into the class. This story is about one of the teacher’s brilliant inventions, a means of motivating the children to do well, to take care in their work and be proud of all that they achieve. Each child gets an actual "licence" on reaching the goal of no mistakes with a pencil.
When the children are able to write a dictation with a pencil without any mistakes to be rubbed out, then they receive the permission, and a certificate that allows them to use their fountain pen. Do not forget that the children in this class are seven or eight years old.
All the children in the class find it such a privilege to be able to use a pen at last, and so grown up too when that pen in question is a fountain pen. It is doubly special when the child has athetoid cerebral palsy.
We practise and practise in the group so that Littlie can control the movement in her arms and her hands, so she can move something without putting too much pressure on the object to fix her movements. She is learning how to rest or fix a different part of her body, trunk, shoulder, elbow or wrist, depending on what task she is doing, so that she can freely move the toy or implement in her grasp.
Little Princess still presses a little bit too hard on the paper when writing and drawing, so she will not start immediately using a proper nib. Instead she will save her fountain pen just a little bit longer and use a gel pen that glides over the paper more easily. The stationary shops in Germany are full of pens of different kinds, suitable for solving many of the problems that children have when they learn to write. Apart from the obvious, left- and right-handed nibs, there are different shapes to grasp and different thicknesses of pen and nib to choose from.
Littlie will use her fountain pen only when the danger of spoiling the nib is less. One of the things that we can do to practice is watercolour painting on a small paper and with a fine, good-quality brush. She will continue to learn how to use just the tip of the brush, and not scrub the paper with it and ruin the bristles. One mention of painting and Littlie just about flies to the table, so there is lots of motivation there too.
Whether she writes from now on with a pencil, a gel pen or a fountain pen is not important to Littlie at the moment. What is important is that she wrote a dictation with no mistakes, that she has the choice to use a pen or a pencil and that, just like the rest of the class, she has her fountain pen licence to hang up on the wall at home.
Her motivation to do well is to be up to date with her peers.
Having told the story and received my congratulations Little Princess was ready to take off her coat, walk to the table and prepare to eat her lunch.
Lunch, now that is another story
Since I have been away this after-school group seems to have turned into a tea-drinking club.
The tea is brewed at lunchtime by our Man Friday and all the children and the adults drink a cup after lunch and another at about four o'clock. This week one of the Grandmas has been appearing at tea-time with a bag full of carnival-time doughnuts!
Between eating and drinking and story-telling we do manage a bit of the conductive upbringing, including on one afternoon last week some changing of roles. I ended up on the floor with the classroom assistant and the littlies gave us our instructions.They demonstrated new activities, corrected our odd positions and giggled an awful lot. At one point I could not carry on as I was laughing so much that the tears rolled down my cheeks.
This change of roles made me realise why the littlies enjoy coming to do "Petö" so much; we biggies quite enjoy it too! It also made me realise how difficult some of the games we play are.
(See the photographs at the top of this page.)